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Cancer prevention and support: how employers can help

A variety of colourful awareness ribbons arranged in a circle

Employers could be doing more to help their staff stay fit and well, new research suggests.

Group Risk Development (GRiD), the industry body for the group risk sector, found that 17% of employers do not offer any support to prevent ill-health, including serious illnesses such as cancer.

Every year, more than 127,000 people of working age are diagnosed with cancer in the UK -- and around 4 in 10 of these cases could be prevented, according to Cancer Research UK.

Health and wellbeing benefits and initiatives in the workplace can encourage employees to make positive changes to their lifestyle that help them live a healthier, longer life.

Lifestyle factors

Some of the biggest lifestyle factors associated with cancer are well documented, including smoking, drinking alcohol, poor diet, obesity, physical inactivity, sun exposure and stress, all of which can be modified with the right support, GRiD explained. However, even among those employers that currently offer support to prevent ill-health, many could do more. For example:

  • Only 16% offer their staff discounted gym membership, bicycle, fitness classes, etc.
  • Only 15% offer initiatives to help staff manage stress and mental health.
  • Just 14% offer lifestyle support such as advice on nutrition, sleep, health and fitness.
  • And 13% offer apps that encourage better health behaviours.

These types of measures can have a direct impact on the overall health of staff and can help mitigate against illnesses including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular issues, stroke and liver disease.

Healthier long-term habits

It's crucial that prevention plays a key role in employer health and wellbeing programmes, said Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD.

"We can't necessarily eliminate cancer entirely but encouraging healthy behaviours in staff is likely to help reduce their likelihood of getting the disease at some point in the future -- especially if support helps turn poor lifestyle choices into healthier long-term habits," Moxham added.

Financial and practical support when cancer strikes

For staff already affected by cancer, company-wide group protection policies can provide financial support at a time when it's most needed, as well as practical support in helping people remain in or return to work.

New figures show that in 2022, employees and their dependants received £2.21bn in claims from employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness policies -- equivalent to £6.05m every day. Cancer is the most common cause of claim across all group risk products.

Last year there were a total of 261,631 interactions with the additional help and support services funded by group risk insurers, and 5,651 employees were helped back to work within the same year following a period of sickness absence.

As cancer support charity Macmillan explains, for many people with cancer, going to work can give a sense of normality to their life. It can also help with recovery.

And remember, if a person has or has had cancer, they are protected by law from unfair treatment at work for the rest of their life. Support from managers and employers can include making reasonable adjustments to help an employee stay in or return to work when they are ready and able.

Posted by Fidelius on June 19th 2023

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